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Various Artists: Absolute Brass

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Absolute Brass (CTI), a Creed Taylor production, culls performances by trumpet notables spanning the early 1990s. (The disc is available only at These performances-by Wynton Marsalis, Chet Baker, Roy Hargrove, Art Farmer, Wallace Roney and Randy Brecker-are drawn from CTI albums that did not necessarily feature these trumpeters as leaders. Unfortunately, the source information is left off the CD packaging, so listeners are left to do their own research.

“Uncle Pete” and “The Dreamer,” Marsalis’ two vehicles, come from a Charles Fambrough album The Proper Angle, as do the Roy Hargrove showcases “Don Quixote” and “Sand Jewels.” There’s something cynical about repackaging Fambrough’s work as Marsalis’ and Hargrove’s. But these four performances as well as “Alycia/Andrea,” a third Hargrove feature from a later Fambrough album, all feature the hot ticket of Kenny Kirkland and Jeff “Tain” Watts. As such, they’re worth hearing and preserving.

The remaining five tracks are a mixed bag. Art Farmer’s “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise,” with Romero Lubambo, Charlie Haden and Airto, is the best of the lot. Chet Baker’s two entries, “All Blues” and “Skylark,” are from Jim Hall’s large-ensemble record Youkali, which was released in 1992, four years after Baker’s death. (Could his trumpet have been dubbed in posthumously?) Wallace Roney’s absurd rendering of “Four” could be a backing track for MC Hammer. But a 1991 version of Randy Brecker’s “Squids,” with a “heavy metal bebop” solo by Mike Stern, closes the album on a redeeming note.

Originally Published